Into the Wayback Machine

The Red, White and Blue – Bandaloop Trio Rapelling Down the Face of the Continental Building

This photo is from 2013. It was a pleasant September Saturday afternoon. Under a cloudless sky, Dancing in the Streets had occupied the Grand Center theater district for the weekend. Streets were blocked, stages erected and some sixty local groups danced in the streets and it was free to all. Anne and I had bicycled to the event. This festival marked the beginning of the fall theater season. In 2013, Dancing in the Streets was in its seventh and final year. The pictured troupe Bandaloop headlined that year, as it had headlined the festival’s first year.

A crowd gathered in the street, in front of the quirky Continental Life Building. Writer, actor and former WashU student Harold Ramis is said to have modeled Dana’s apartment building in the movie Ghostbusters, after the Continental. Another photographer advised me to stand near the building, for more dramatic shots. Ropes unfurled from the top. With heads craned backwards, we waited in anticipation for the show to begin. To musical accompaniment, while facing forward, performers spider-walked down the face of the building. After having descended a third of the way, each group began their dance. With strong dancer’s legs, players would launch themselves off of the face of the building, each one suspended by their single cord. It was a death defying performance. Swinging wide, they flew out into space, sometimes pirouetting, sometimes clasping each other, before swinging back to land again on the side of the building. Wearing tap shoes, they would also dance across the uneven white façade, without ever breaking any of the windows. That would have been bad.

By the time that each group of Bandaloopers had finished their dance, they had also descended another third of the building’s height. They would then quickly rappel down to the ground, to the welcoming applause of the throng. Once one group of dancers was back on earth, another group would begin again from the top. The groups of dancers performed as couples, trios and for the finale, as a quintet. Of course, there were no encores and the show was over way too soon, but it was glorious while it lasted.

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